David Cameron is facing pressure from some on the Tory right to do a deal with Ukip or take a tougher line on European Union immigration to prevent the party haemorrhaging support that could cost it the general election.
As recriminations began following a poor night for the Conservatives, the Prime Minister said he still believed he could win another term in Downing Street next year. But he conceded that the public were “frustrated” with the political establishment’s failure to address their concerns.
With some areas still to declare the Conservatives had lost control of 11 councils and had lost 190 seats. The Tories were predicted to get around 29 per cent share of the vote – up slightly from last year – but down from 2012 when the party got 31 per cent.
Among Conservative losses were several important battlegrounds which the party will need to win if it is to have any chance of a majority in 2015.
The party lost control of the bellweather councils of Crawley, West Sussex, Basildon in Essex as well as the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham where Labour took 11 Conservative seats. However, there was better news in Trafford, Greater Manchester where they saw off a Labour challenge.
The right-wing backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested it was time for his party to reconcile itself with Ukip and its supporters. “If we look at the results that are coming through, the small ‘c’ conservative faction of British politics is picking up a very large share of votes – and in a first-past-the-post system, if they don’t get those votes into one pot, both sides end up losing,” he said.
“I think the first task is to win our friends in Ukip back. How do we get people who voted Ukip today to vote Conservative in the general election next year?
“If we don’t get them back we will find that we lose seats that have a small ‘c’ conservative majority – so that’s a real challenge for the party.”
Another Conservative backbencher Douglas Carswell said: “The two of them need to do a deal. If the alternative is Ed Miliband as prime minister, and no chance of a referendum, surely a pact is worth considering?”
The right-wing Tory Bow Group called for a members’ election within six months to replace Grant Shapps as party chairman, and reform to make the party more democratic and in-tune with its members. “The Conservative Party has ignored the rise of Ukip and is haemorrhaging voters as a result, but the fundamental problem is that it has ignored Conservative principles, its members and voters for too long,” said Bow Group chairman Ben Harris-Quinney.
But Mr Cameron ruled out a deal and said his party’s job was to win back Ukip voters. “People want us to deliver,” he said. “The economy is growing, we are creating jobs, but we have got to work harder and we have got to really deliver on issues that are frustrating people and frustrating me, like welfare reform and immigration and making sure people really benefit from this recovery.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies